By Tim Scott, Head of HR, Brook @TimScottHR
Let me lay my cards out on the table before I get going here: I love technology. Not in a hugely geeky way - I'm not an early adopter, must-have-the-latest-tech kind of guy - but I love the possibilities that it opens up for us.
Having spent several years in an office-based role, I'm now back out and about a fair bit in a new job. And how things have changed. I was reflecting on my last trip to London (I'm based in Liverpool) that in the "old" days of 2001, the journey used to take nearly four hours and I'd buy a newspaper at Lime Street and have read it from cover to cover by the time I hit Euston. Nowadays the journey is just over two hours and I'm back and forth between my email, phone calls, Twitter and creating documents in Evernote for future use - coincidentally exactly what I'm doing now.
Evernote is a great example of a workflow (life?) changing app. I'm on a local train heading over to Manchester. Once, I'd have stared out of the window, thinking about what I was having for my tea. Now I'm sitting here writing, admittedly with the iPad balanced gingerly on my knee, but getting something constructive done. I know with this app that when I stop typing the draft will be almost instantaneously available to me on my laptop or, in fact, any computer with internet access that I feel like using. At the other end of the spectrum, if I'm walking along the street and an idea pops into my head for the next paragraph, I can whip out my iPhone and add a quick note to it for later. See, technology - or rather what it can do for us - is awesome.
Or is it?
At the recent CIPD Social Media conference, I took part in an interesting breakout discussion about the idea of "technology fatigue". Not everyone loves new tech as much as I do and some find learning to use new devices a challenging experience rather than an invigorating one. The CIPD's Social Technology, Social Business?" report shows that only one in four organisations allow staff to connect their own smartphone or device to the company's IT network. For me, this begs the question "Why aren't more employers taking advantage of BYOD to enable staff to use tech they already know and love?"
Well maybe they already are - but not officially. The report tells us that 45% of us use a tablet or smartphone for work, rising to 61% for any sort of mobile digital device (ie including laptops). It draws the conclusion that this rise is driven by the expectations we have from our personal use of social media and technology rather than any organisational strategy.
Two recent minor incidents illustrate perfectly why I think we've still got a way to go before our ability to use technology matches the opportunities it offers - bearing in mind I have a positive interest in this stuff and I'm not a complete beginner...
At the Social Media conference, I was a member of a panel discussing social media in HR. I thought I'd be a bit twenty-first century and, rather than use written notes for my session, I'd jot a few thoughts down in Evernote and use my iPad. It sounded like a great idea at the time but as Murphy's Law would dictate, as soon as it got to my turn to speak people started emailing me. And the emails popped up on my screen in front of my notes, completely obscuring what I'd intended to say next. That was not part of the plan! Note to self: switch off the wifi if you are intending to use the iPad as speaking notes again.
The second incident again stemmed from me trying to be a bit clever. The HR team in my current organisation is spread around the country. I needed their input on a document so rather than email the document and get six different responses, I shared a Google doc with them all and asked them to put their thoughts into it that way. Again, very twenty-first century. It was a matter of moments before I got the first email from a member of the team saying they couldn't edit it. I hadn't set it up properly so a quick change of settings and away we went. Or so I thought. The person who sits opposite me in the office - someone I could have printed the document out and passed it to without leaving my seat - couldn't access it because their version of Internet Explorer didn't support Google docs. Cue a long winded fight between me and the administrator settings to upgrade to IE11. I lost.
The capability of modern technology to transform the way we work is undeniable: unfortunately it looks like we still have a good way to go before organisations - and us as individuals - are able to take full advantage of it.
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